Emma is one of my regular guest bloggers. I feel really thrilled about the possibility to post one educating post of this great blogger on a regular base. Thank you so much, Emma, for sharing your insights with us! Please check out her amazing blog as well…
We all love trees, right? They keep our planet alive. Our forests breathe carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere, making the air safe to breathe for humans and animals. And even if we don’t realize the impact of trees on the habitability of the biosphere, most of us enjoy trees as yard decorations. And a great many of us abandon the odd practice of stunting the growth of the branches and growing trees as hedges, and instead let the trees spread their leaves to their full, majestic height and girth. No matter how we think of trees, they are a huge part of our lives.
But just how many trees are there on the surface of the Earth?
You might think that’s an impossible number to count. How does one person, or even a team of people, go about tallying up every single tree in every single ecosystem in every single country on every single continent across the globe? It seems, at first consideration, to be an impossible task. But it has been done. Until September of last year, scientists and surveyors used remote sensing techniques and global models to map out a vague estimate of the number of trees on Earth. They estimated the number to be about 400 billion, a large number to comprehend. But they were wrong.
In September of 2015, a new team determined to find the answer. Spurred on by doubt and confusion over the most recent (and seemingly to high to be true) estimate of trees in the Amazon alone, they generated predictive regression models that linked tree density to spatially explicit remote sensing and geographic information systems layers of climate, topography, vegetation characteristics, and anthropogenic (human) use of land. This study was much more specific than previous ones, taking into account many more of the variables that determine how many trees will grow in any one area. It was the first comprehensive scan of tree density on a global level. And the new estimate of the total tree count on Earth is even more impressive than before: a whopping 3.04 trillion! That’s over seven times the previous estimate of 400 billion!
The recent study maps break down the effects of deforestation on different parts of the globe. For example, northeastern North America is estimated to be more than 80% forested, despite much of the region’s forest being harvested for timber in the 1800s. Hispaniola, on the other hand, has been greatly affected by deforestation. While the Dominican Republic, which occupies half of the island, is greatly forested, Haiti—the western half—is almost completely empty of trees. The study suggests that from 1973 to 2009, Thailand and Vietnam lost 22% and 24%, respectively, of their forest cover. More than 30% of the region’s remaining forest could be cleared by 2030. And even with all of this forest depletion, the planet Earth is now estimated to have 3.04 trillion trees.
But do not be misled. That number only sounds fantastically huge because we’re used to hearing the estimate of 400 billion (or at least used to estimating ourselves a number far smaller than reality). The recent survey estimated that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year. That means that the number of trees on Earth has actually fallen by 46% since the start of human civilization. 3.04 trillion, an incredible number that rivals the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, is actually just over half of the number of trees that once grew on the surface of our planet.
Deforestation has devastated our forests and continues to devastate them. Numbers of trees are predicted to fall even more. Can we let our trees die and our forests disappear? Can we allow, in the next 200,000 years, our population of trees to fall by another half—almost to zero?
As a fellow human being who shares this planet with countless others of her race, I urge you all to take steps toward change. Stop killing our trees. Let’s turn this around while we still can.